Tampa Bay Buccaneers Visit ‘Treasure Island’
After months of hard work, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers premiered their 2021 Season Opener Video 'Armada' to a crowd of over 65,000 at Raymond James Stadium – and fans of KitBash3D may have spotted a familiar sight: the Treasure Island kit! Thanks to the Art Director and VFX Artist Christopher Schultz, we have an inside scoop into the video’s production as well as the story of how he came to make creative content for major league sports teams for a living.
KitBash3D: Hey, Christopher, thanks so much for joining us! Can you share a little about yourself and your creative journey up until this point?
Christopher Schultz: Hey hey, my name’s Christopher Schultz and I go online by Topher.exe. Thinking back, my creative journey began at a very young age. Starting in the first grade, I was known as the kid who loved to draw. At the time, it was a lot of Sonic the Hedgehog, haha, but it eventually evolved into creating my own comic book characters and flip-book animations.
Around that time, I was also playing a lot with my parents’ Sony camcorder, unknowingly teaching myself how to tell stories through the perspective of a lens. Fast forward to high school, and I’m making the most cringey short films with my friends, peppered with a ton of bad VFX. I was also uploading Flash animations to Newgrounds and was deep into the Machinima community.
Later, after taking New Media in university, I co-founded a creative marketing agency with my best friend where we specialized in filmmaking & graphic design. It was such a wonderful experience with some stellar adventures and a ton of creative growth. Four years later, I parted ways to join the marketing team at the Edmonton Oilers, where I helped them win a few international awards for our motion graphics & filmmaking work.
In 2020, I moved to Minneapolis to join forces with a creative powerhouse in the sports industry, Triglass Productions, which is where I am now! We’re a small team of like-minded individuals who create cinematic short films & motion graphic packages for teams in the NFL, NBA, NHL, & MLS.
KitBash3D: Always fascinating to hear the different opportunities available to those who work in 3D. What was your first thought when you were asked to work on the Buccaneers promo, and how did the Treasure Island Kit come to mind?
Christopher: Our team at Triglass had previously worked with the Buccaneers for their 2020 intro video, so going into the new 2021 season we pitched the idea of creating a sequel. We were super proud of our first collab with the team. The phantom footage and CGI shots turned out better than expected but for the sequel we knew we had to level up our game.
Because the Buccs had just won the Super Bowl, it was inevitable that the 2021 intro had to be larger and even more epic. That’s where the Treasure Island Kit came into play.
In our script we had written an opening sequence that takes place in a foggy tropical wasteland of a village. Given the time and budget we had, there was no way we could create a Hollywood-level village practically (though, we did build two small wooden structures that we burnt to the ground!).
Long story short, we knew from the beginning that in order to create a perceivably larger pirate universe, the village was going to be 100% CGI, and the Treasure Island kit was going to get the job done.
KitBash3D: What inspired or influenced your design for the promo beyond the kit?
Christopher: As we were brainstorming the look of the foggy village, we were collecting content from all around the internet and taking stills from a variety of films that have done the foggy look very successfully (e.g. Macbeth, Blade Runner, War Horse - to name a few). Being a sequel, we were also inspired by the visual language of our 2020 Buccaneers intro. We didn’t want to venture too far from the design we had already established.
For me personally, I wanted to make sure each CGI shot felt as far away from CGI as possible. The lighting & fog helped a ton, especially given the amount of shots I needed to complete in the short amount of time I had. But I also gave myself virtual constraints, forcing me to think like a filmmaker in the real world.
During the creative process I’d ask myself, “is this the right focal length for this particular shot? Does it make sense to lock the camera down and shoot on sticks or do I go handheld? Do I work with additional lighting or restrict myself to just using the sun like our restriction on set?” These types of questions greatly influenced how I designed each shot.
KitBash3D: Those constraints definitely help ground the piece in reality. What was your favorite part about making the VFX for this promo or your favorite part about using the kit?
Christopher: My favourite part about making any VFX shot is that key moment in time when everything you’ve been working on for hours, sometimes days, begins to click. All the pieces begin to fit together and you’re just riding the wave of art & design. I found that those moments happened quite frequently and more often with the Treasure Island kit.
To have the God-like ability to spawn a number of giant buildings out of thin air, move these large sexy structures around the set like they weigh nothing, plop them down in a spot that makes no sense but looks great through the lens, and then with the advent of GPU rendering, see a photo real image on screen in real time, now that’s magical.
KitBash3D: That was very cool to see in your breakdowns - there were actually very few elements in the scene, but in-camera it looked great! What did you learn from making this project, or was there a technique you tried to employ while making it?
Christopher: I’ve had a few projects in the past where I’ve composited video elements of smoke and fog on top of my renders to enhance the realism and drama of the scene, but for this project, I went all out.
Rather than solely relying on VDB volumes to provide the atmosphere and mood, nearly every shot has a few video assets from ActionVFX that are subtly blended in over the CGI render. Sometimes the layer might only have an opacity of 5% yet it still breathed life into the frame. The turbulence and raw chaos of real-life smoke & fog is incomparable. Not to mention real-life footage of fire. If used correctly, it can be a simple way to create the illusion that the CGI shot is real live-action footage. I’ll for sure be using this tactic in future projects that require a similar vibe.
KitBash3D: Love that practical and digital fusion. Aaron Limonick, Lead Concept Artist on The Last of Us Part II, discussed that with us in a demo: the real world is messy, so it’s actually imperfection that makes perfection!
If it weren’t for a client, what would you like to make next with the Treasure Island kit?
Christopher: It’d be fun to spend the time constructing a village on the edge of the coastal Mediterranean cliff with lush vegetation, lively action, and lit with a gorgeous sunset HDRI, as to not hide the details in a foggy VDB volume. I feel like I’m cheating too much sometimes, lol.
Perhaps I’ll give the final image a paintbrush makeover to look as if it was painted in an impressionist style. And who knows, if it tells a compelling story and the visuals end up looking amazing, maybe I’ll mint it into an NFT, but most likely not, ha.
There’s so much to play with in this kit, the options are endless.
KitBash3D: If you could give this kit to another artist for them to play with, who would it be?
Christopher: I’d love to see what Timo Noack would do with this kit. Timo helped us with the Buccaneers promo, providing renders for the 3D compass and sword shots, and he’s just a killer 3D generalist all around. He’s built a foggy village scene in the past and it was absolutely stunning. I’m sure he would crush it if he were to play with the Treasure Island kit.
KitBash3D: He’s very talented as well! We have time for just a couple more questions. One that we always like asking artists is, “what drives you to keep creating?”
Christopher: The satisfaction it gives me day in and day out. I find creating art to be incredibly enjoyable at times, especially 3D art. It’s a beautiful mix of imagination, curiosity, and technical problem-solving. It never gets boring and always offers a fun challenge, especially with how fast 3D technology has been advancing over the years. It’s still so wild to me that a single artist can pull off cinematic-level VFX shots from their own personal computer. We live in a crazy time for visual artists. Take advantage of it, everyone.
Also, not gonna lie, I know I’m quite lucky that I get to do what I love for my career and be in a position where I’m given a good amount of creative freedom. Not too many folks can say the same, so I’m very grateful I get to keep creating. I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. :)
KitBash3D: Love that gratitude, and we can personally attest to how immense the opportunity is for the digital creators of tomorrow! Last question on that note, which artists inspire you?
Christopher: There are many artists that inspire me, from musicians to painters, from architects to 3D generalists, from comedians to scientists. The beauty of art is that you can find it in everything. I’ve always found that exploring art outside of your focus is a healthy way to grow as an artist.
Buuuuut, if I had to share a few current artists that I’ve been following lately, it’d be Jacob Collier, Djamila Knopf, Devin Michael Roberts, Kidmograph, PUP, Henri Prestes, Marc Rebillet… I could keep going, but I’ll keep it at that.
KitBash3D: True that! Inspiration is everywhere. Thanks so much for sharing, and thanks again for your time!
About Christopher Schultz
Christopher Schultz is a Canadian international-award-winning 3D generalist, filmmaker, and creative mind, known for his work with teams in the NFL, NBA, NHL, & MLS. He currently resides in Minneapolis, MN, acting as an Art & Marketing Director for video production agency Triglass Productions.
You can find his work and behind-the-scenes content on his Instagram.